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Missing Pieces: China’s Challenges, Africa’s Mixed Picture, and More

By Isobel Coleman for Council on Foreign Relations.


An employee puts up a price tag after updating the price at a supermarket in Hefei, China, April 9, 2012 (Jianan Yu/Courtesy Reuters).

In this week’s installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow discusses stories on China and Africa, as well as a report on U.S. international engagement. Enjoy the reading.

  • China’s Challenges: Last week brought troubling economic news for China, with disappointing indicators on everything from import growth to retail sales to real estate investment. TheFinancial Timesthe GuardianMarketWatch, andReuters have reported on the numbers. The data indicating a slowdown come in the wake of major political scandals. The Bo Xilai saga (analyzed in a recent ForeignAffairs.com piece) continues to simmer and the Chen Guangcheng case (recounted in a Washington Post article by CFR’s Jerome Cohen) has shone a harsh light on human rights. With all these headwinds, New York Times piece says that “triumphalism” over China’s economic and political model seems “at best, premature, and perhaps seriously misguided.” In a post on Asia Unbound, CFR’s Elizabeth Economy reviews China’s exhaustive efforts to control public debate. The authorities, she concludes, “are like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke.” » More

The Price of Political Scandals in India

When business and politics collide, photo: Dinesh Cyanam/flickr

2010 was a year of scandals for India, from the corruption surrounding the Commonwealth Games and the Adarsh Housing Society, to the bribes-for-loan scam affecting the Indian banking industry.  These scandals involved billions of rupees, most of which was public money. One of the biggest scandals uncovered last year, however, was the 2G (second generation) telecom spectrum scam in which the former Telecommunications Minister A Raja is suspected of having sold 2G spectrum phone licenses to telecom companies for a fraction of their value. This is reported to have cost the government $37 billion in lost revenue, equivalent to 14 percent of India’s GDP.

Thousands of scandals take place in India every day, ranging from small to huge, from the local all the way up to the national level.  Such behavior is accepted as a normal part of life, so it mostly goes unreported in the media as it is nothing ‘new’.  Some schemes are just too big to be ignored, however. Scandals that have previously found their way into the national – and international − media because of their magnitude include:

•    Fodder Scam : involved the fabrication of “vast herds of fictitious livestock” for which fodder, medicines and animal husbandry equipment was supposedly procured.

•    Bofors Scandal : the then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and several others were accused of receiving kickbacks from Sweden’s Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India with 155 mm field howitzers.

•    Bombay Stock Exchange Manipulation and Fraud :  exploiting several loopholes in the banking system, stockbroker Harshad Mehta and his associates siphoned funds from inter-bank transactions. They bought shares at a premium across many segments, triggering a rise in the Sensex, Mumbai’s Stock Exchange.

•    Cash-for-votes scandal : the United Progressive Alliance allegedly bribed Indian MPs with cash or currency-notes to the tune of millions of Rupees in order to survive its very first vote of confidence on 22 July 2008.

•    Madhu Koda: During his tenure as Chief Minister of Jharkahand, Madhu Koda was charged with laundering over Rs.40 billion ($880 million) through his assets. These included hotels and three companies in Mumbai, property in Kolkata, and a coal mine in Liberia. » More